The Gospel. St. John XIV. 15.
Jesus said unto his disciples, If ye love me, keep my commandments, And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, and ye shall live also. At the day, ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter, I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.
Comforter. This is just one of the English interpretations for the Greek word “parakletos”. Some other translations include; Councilor, Helper, Advocate. This “parakletos”, or “Paraclete”, is the one whom Christ tells his disciples will be sent to them after he leaves this earth. He then goes on to say that this “parakletos”, is none other than God’s Holy Spirit.
Comforter, councilor, helper, advocate. We know that there are a number of different translations of the Bible, but that doesn’t necessarily explain why there are also so many different interpretations for this one word. It also doesn’t explain why Jesus would even use such a word in the first place. Since he also tells us that he is referring to the Holy Spirit, why doesn’t he just say that right off the bat? Why use a word that has so many different meanings and connotations?
Well, of course, it’s because the Holy Spirit, as the Third Person of the Trinity and part of the Eternal Godhead, is precisely all of these things and more. Jesus does not give us a simple description of something which is so vast because it is quite impossible. We wouldn’t be able to completely understand in any case. And so he gives us a word that is open to multiple meanings and definitions. Which is the correct one? The answer is, all of them; because together, they describe the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives.
As comforter, the Holy Spirit imbues us with the ability to be brave, particularly in the face of adversity. As councilor, the Holy Spirit guides us in the way of all truth; indeed, Jesus tells us that the “parakletos” is the Spirit of Truth. As helper, the Holy Spirit teaches us all that we need to know and helps us to remember that which is important. And as advocate, the Holy Spirit comes to us in our time of need to strengthen us, inspire us, and interact with us as God’s continuing Presence in our lives.
But there is a common theme to each of these roles, and it lies in yet another interpretation of the word “parakletos”. And that interpretation is “one who is called in”. We call to friends and family to comfort us in times of need or sorrow. We call to others to provide us with advice or council about important matters. We call to people to help us when we need assistance with some task. And we call in attorneys and advocates to plead our cause in legal matters. None of these people can help us or intercede for us unless we call them in. And so it is with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit cannot supply us with bravery or the ability to manage unless we call him in. The Holy Spirit cannot teach us in the way of all Truth unless we call him in. The Holy Spirit cannot teach us and show us God’s Will unless we call him in. And unless we call him in, the Holy Spirit cannot inspire us, and we end up denying to ourselves that continuing interaction with God.
This is where it gets dangerous. Because when we fail to call in the Holy Spirit, we risk becoming like those people whom Christ describes as “the world”; those who cannot receive the Spirit because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. We see these people all around us today. Some in our neighborhoods, some in our former churches, some in politics, some in the media, etc.; people who have lost faith in God and because of that they have also shut off access to the comfort, council, help and advocacy that He provides.
I submit to you this example (and you just know that I had to come eventually to the hard part). Remember how Christ starts off today? “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. The truest test of our love for God is our obedience to God. Jesus shows us that love by his own obedience to God through his willingness to fulfill God’s plan. In this way, he shows us also that love is not always an easy thing, just as true obedience is not an easy thing.
But the wonderful thing about this is that God does not leave us alone to struggle with our Faith and Christian mission. He knows that it will be hard, that we may suffer many things for our Faith. He knows that he has set before us a difficult task, “If ye love me, keep my commandments; He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; If a man love me, he will keep my words; He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings ”. But he also tells us the reward for our obedience, “and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
And so, he sends us his “parakletos”, to guide us and to enable us to do what we ought to be doing. Comforter? You bet, if you remember that we tend to think of a comforter as someone who sympathizes with us when we are troubled; but also know that the dictionary definition of “comfort” is “to give strength and hope to”. “Comfort” is also derived from the Latin word meaning “to strengthen greatly”.
This is what the Holy Spirit does for us. He gives us the strength we need to cope with our lives. He empowers us to overcome the world and to focus on loving God and keep His commandments. He enables us to rise above our human inadequacies and to emerge victorious over the temptations of the world. He helps us to keep the words of Christ in our hearts and minds and to remain obedient to the Father. Comforter, councilor, helper, advocate.
But of course it is still up to us. “parakletos”, “one who is called in”. The Holy Spirit doesn’t enter where he is not invited. He doesn’t enter where he is not wanted. He doesn’t enter where he is not known.
And so we sit here today, much as those Apostles and the Blessed Virgin did two thousand years ago, and prepare for the comforter promised to us by Our Lord. We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit that they received and mark this day as the beginning, the “birthday” of the Holy Catholic Church. And we ask that Jesus Christ will likewise pray the Father for us; that we too may receive his comforter, councilor, helper, advocate, his “parakletos”; the “one who is called in”.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever